It was bound to come up eventually. During the Toronto Raptors victory parade today, the crowd started chanting “one more year!” at Kawhi Leonard as he rode the team’s bus. Kyle Lowry upped the ante and started a “five more years!” chant.
The crowd exploded and the chant became deafening. The most interesting part of the video is that Kawhi Leonard’s uncle, Dennis Robertson, the man who carries a lot of influence when it comes to Kawhi’s business decisions, joined in on the chant. Dennis was one of the catalysts when it came to Kawhi Leonard famously sitting out the 2017 season and later leaving the San Antonio Spurs via a trade with Toronto. He has been heard saying that this was the only season Kawhi would spend in Canada. He was heard in May on Kawhi’s sister’s Instagram story saying “they know darn well he ain’t gonna be there next year”
Kawhi Leonard had been rumored to want a trade to a Los Angeles team, either the Clippers or the Lakers when he demanded to be dealt from the Spurs. Leonard is originally from the Los Angeles area and went to college at San Diego State University. Uncle Dennis’ chant may be a case of “getting caught up in the moment” or may be because he knows the Raptors can offer Kawhi much more than any other team.
One Year Rental
Many teams were hesitant to trade for Kawhi Leonard once the news came out that he wanted out of San Antonio. The Spurs reportedly didn’t want to deal him to a team in the Western Conference, especially not the Lakers, to avoid competing against him. Other teams were interested but worried because Kawhi was on the last year of his contract and was expected to leave after this season to go to Los Angeles or a bigger market team regardless of the outcome.
Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors took the risk, trading one of their centerpieces, Demar DeRozan, along with center Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick in 2019 for Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. The gamble paid off spectacularly when the Raptors won the NBA championship, defeating the Golden State Warriors in six games in a best of seven series.
Winning the championship changes things significantly but most analysts still have Leonard leaving for a different team in the off-season. If Kawhi does go to a different team, he would be the first player to join a different team a season after winning the championship.
Kawhi Leonard to Lakers?
One bargaining chip the Raptors have to keep Kawhi is their option to offer him a five-year max extension contract worth $190 million. The most any other team could offer the 27-year-old superstar would be four years and $141 million. The Los Angeles Lakers are rumored to be Kawhi’s preferred destination, but after a blockbuster trade that saw them giving away their entire young core of players (minus Kyle Kuzma), they may be unable to offer Kawhi a max deal.
In addition, Kawhi and Uncle Dennis (as he’s come to be known) are repotedly quite fond of Toronto Raptors’ Director of Sports Science Alex McKechnie. The gray-haired Scottland native was instrumental in helping Leonard manage his workload during the season and remain healthy throughout the playoffs.
If the trade is made official on July 6, the Lakers will only have $23.7 million in cap space to pursue Kawhi and other players to round out their roster. If the New Orleans Pelicans agree to delay the deal and accept it on July 30, the Lakers would have $32.5 million to spend which would make a Kawhi deal possible. It would also leave them with very little to work with when it comes to signing much needed free agents.
As of right now, the ball is in Kawhi Leonard’s court.